Customer Experience in 2016
One of the repeated refrains in all the business journals focused on the customer experience is how much change we are likely to see in 2016. In particular how the marketing function in every company, regardless of industry, will need to merge with the customer service function to create a customer service hub.
Many analysts take this as given; I have long argued that every single function that interacts with customers will need to merge. This means that sales, advertising, and public relations all need to join up with marketing in coordinating their actions with the customer service team.
But what does this look like in practice? Take a look at this interview that KPMG posted on YouTube. It’s a conversation with Dave Atherton, the head of customer experience at AO.com, the online white goods and home appliance retailer. One comment in particular stands out for me here:
“Drivers are the only human face that our customers usually see, but they are not just drivers, they are customer service representatives. We give them the tools and the right attitude. One of our drivers brought flowers to a customer recently because she had mentioned to the call centre that she had just had a baby. The aim is to treat customers like they are your own family – if your gran had a problem you wouldn’t give her a £10 voucher and hope she goes away.”
Companies with large fleets have often talked in the past about how their drivers help to improve the supply chain – think of delivery companies like UPS or FedEx – but here is an executive saying that the drivers are the only human face of the company. They are not just drivers – they are the company.
So instead of considering the driver to be a big guy who delivers washing machines, ao.com thinks of them as the key interface with their brand. The driver is doing marketing, sales, and customer relations all rolled into one single function.
This is a great example of a job at the front-line of the customer experience, demonstrating that some companies have realised the importance of every interaction with the customer. Now think back from the point of delivery to some strategic planning meetings in the office. How many other functions interact with the customer, even in a less direct way than a delivery driver?
Now why aren’t those people coordinating with the customer service team so every step of the customer journey from merely seeking information on a product to following up after a purchase can be a great experience?